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CARNIVAL:

Among the Romans, a period of gaiety during the weeks before Lent, in which the Jews were made to play a contemptuous part. While the carnival had existed from the earliest medieval period, its scope was considerably extended by Pope Paul II. at Rome, who established footraces in addition to the usual games. The papal officials desired to amuse the populace by holding races for various classes on different days. On Tuesdays Jews raced for a prize of valuable robes ("pallia"). The races were not supposed to degrade the participants, but were merely a part of the program. The Jews ran in red cloaks, which all, save physicians, had to wear. No contestant was to be older than twenty years, and the entire community had to contribute toward the expenses.

The Jews' first race took place in the Via Lata Feb. 9, 1466. The next year the course exceeded a mile and was on another street. By statute the Jews were taxed 1,100 florins in support of the races.

At first the Jews enjoyed these contests. Later, however, they were subjected to all sorts of cruelties by the populace; and in 1547 a Jew died during the progress of a race. This was the last year in which Jews raced in the carnival. The carnival was an institution of most of the cities of Italy; and Jews, wherever settled, participated in the races. In Rome, contests were held later in the Via Navona and on the Monte Testaccio.

The races were not the only amusements in the carnival in which Jews participated. Besides paying tribute from the earliest times, the Fattori, rabbis, etc., of the congregation were compelled to march on foot before the car of the senators along the entire Corso. Finally, on Jan. 28, 1668, Pope Clement IX. ordered that the Jews be no longer made the sport of the populace, but that a yearly tax of 300 scudi be collected instead. The eldershad to pay this tax on the first day of the carnival in each year to the papal authorities, with due declarations of loyalty and submission. The statement that these expressions were followed by kicking the rabbi must be accepted as fiction; the latest sources do not disclose this practise as customary. In 1742 the Jewish deputies were ordered to appear in citizens' clothes, and not in their robes of office.

This annual procession soon drew upon itself the scorn of the populace, and on several occasions the Jewish deputies were badly treated. It was continued, however, up to the accession of Pius IX. (1846).

Bibliography:
  • Berliner, Gesch. der Juden in Rom, ii., part 1, pp. 60-62; ii., part 2, pp. 47-51, 142;
  • Vogelstein and Rieger, Gesch. der Juden, in Rom, ii. 137 et seq.
A. A. M. F.
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